What’s this thing worth?

There are questions we get so frequently that failure to document them in writing becomes a verifiable drain on the business. Tonight, I invested two hours in writing up a ‘how to determine the value of your thing’ process  based on how we figure out shop pricing for weird items.
With no further ado:
What’s this thing worth?

Great question (we get it All The Time!). It takes a lot of work to determine actual market value. Some people are paid to do this (they’re called appraisers); we just decide what our products are worth to us.That said, we’re all about transparency, so we’re going to share some of our approach and some of our logic along with a few friendly swipes intended to shake you out of The Endowment Effect.

Truth be told, prices have dropped A TON in the last few years – as the Baby Boomers retire and downsize, they have flooded the market with stuff, just as the Millenials and GenXers are getting sick and tired of clutter. Excess Supply meets Dwindling Demand = hard to sell, even for less than you may have spent on it originally (in fact, this will almost certainly be the case).

BUT- we could be wrong, and we’d hate to steer you astray, so we’ll share a few of our own strategies here, and wish you the best of luck!

For dishes/silver, specifically, Replacements.com is a phenomenal resource. You’ll need to figure out your pattern or seek their help in identifying it for you – but considering how many millions of different patterns are out there, their search tool is pretty dang impressive, and they even buy some pieces direct.

For just about everything else, there’s Ebay.com. To see what the most successful sellers have achieved (and to figure out how well/frequently your thing is selling when offered up to an audience of 100,000,000 people), here’s how you do it:

Before getting started: DO NOT determine value of *anything* based on how much someone’s trying to sell their thing for. If it’s still for sale, that means that NOT ONE OF EBAY’S 100,000,000 buyers has purchased it (yet/ever). And, people have probably had opportunities to buy that thing for cheaper from someone else selling on eBay.

OK. Got it? Good. Here’s how this goes:

Step 1. Choose some words that describe your product (‘keywords’).  Enter them. Hit ‘Return.’

Do you see products that look like yours? Great- you’ve got good keywords. Move on to step 2.

1A: If you DO NOT FIND things that look like yours, congrats! You’re going to get some practice entering keywords. Keep trying descriptors, brands, etc. until you find eBay listings for products that look like yours.

1B: If you have executed an exhaustive search and still haven’t found anything like your thing, this could mean one of two things:

  1. You’ve got something rare on your hands (it may or may not be in demand), or
  2. You’re really bad at searching for things on eBay.
In either case, we recommend that you seek out the advice of an appraiser (or someone better at eBay). Yelp is a great way to find local appraisers who are trusted by other people in your community.

Step 2. Once you’ve found something that looks like what you’re selling, you’re heading in the right direction. Do you like any of their keywords better? Maybe adapt your terms a bit (or play around a bit to see if you find *even more things like yours* with different terms)…this is called INTERNET RESEARCH.Step 3: Content with your search terms? Great. Select and copy these words so you have them when you move to the next screen.

Step 4: Immediately to the right of the blue search button, you’ll see one word in small type: Advanced. Click it.

  • Step 4A:  If your chosen keywords didn’t repopulate automatically, paste them now.
Step 5: After entering your search words and before clicking ‘search,’ navigate to the ‘Search including.’
  • If you only want to see what things have sold for, click ‘Sold Listings.’
  • If you’d like to also get a sense of how many listed items *aren’t* selling at different prices (or to see what silly people are asking for products like yours (that aren’t selling), you might choose the ‘completed listings’ check box, instead. If you do this, you will need to keep in mind that when reviewing listing, the GREEN prices reflect sold items (unsold items that ended will have prices listed in red or black).

Step 6: Next, scroll all the way to the bottom of the Advanced Search screen until you find the ‘Sort By’ dropdown menu. Choose ‘Price + Shipping: highest first.’

Step 7: Then, and only then, click the blue Search button at the bottom of the page.

Step 8: Review your results.

Step 9: Apply analysis – based on green prices for the same thing that you want to sell – to determine how much your thing is worth. We typically aim for a sweet spot: if they’re fairly common and selling like hotcakes on eBay, we’ll price ours in the same range for the sales floor. If sales are spotty, we’ll typically tag our item at 10-30% lower than ebay sold+shipping pricing and see what happens. Again- that’s how *we* apply the information we glean from eBay – you can do whatever makes sense for you (including listing it on eBay for $680,000).Step 10: Decide how much work you’re willing to do to sell your thing.

  • If you’re willing to list it on eBay, you can be fairly certain that your item (in similar condition) will sell (your final take will be sales price, less ebay’s commission and selling costs, which vary depending on how you choose to list it).
  • If you’re not willing to list it yourself on eBay, you will not have the benefit of an audience of 100,000,000 buyers. This means that your item will almost certainly produce an inferior return (which may be fine if you don’t have to bother with ebay listing/shipping/customer service).
  • If you’re willing to sell it directly in other ways, you may use the eBay sold price to help you determine your price before listing on Craiglist, Facebook, NextDoor, or putting a price tag on it for in-person sale.
  • If you want someone else to sell it for you, here are your likely results:
    • If you find someone willing to sell it on commission, expect to pay a commission rate of 30-50% of sale price – the lower the item’s value, the more the seller will command. Also: in many cases, consignment shops have ‘sell it, retrieve it, or lose it’ clauses giving them the right to discount and/or donate your item if it doesn’t sell within specific time frames. Read the fine print.
    • If you find a used goods dealer willing to buy your item outright, expect to be offered 20-25% of the price they will post on the item when it first goes on the sales floor. This is because they are taking the risk of it not selling, and also need to factor in sales and discounts.
    • If you can’t find anyone willing to buy it from you or sell it for you, you have the option of transfering the item to a willing recipient, keeping the item (it’s possible – but unlikely, given current trends – that your thing will increase in value during the coming years), or disposing of the item. Please don’t dispose of the item without first offering it up for free on NextDoor or in a community-oriented Facebook group. Ultimately, we’re each responsible for being good custodians of our own stuff — whether or not it’s likely to make us rich.

Yup– it’s a lot of work with often disappointing results for the casual seller — which is why we’ve made the decision not to buy used things from people or consign used things for people. But- after years of near-daily requests to help people figure out what their stuff is worth, we’ve decided we’re better off giving away our ‘secrets’ than having to explain them ad-infinitum.

Hope this helps – and best of luck selling that thing!

and, <fin> (end of blog post) 😉
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